State Editions

Shah says 120, but Naveen regime may continue

| | in Bhubaneswar

Lately, Amit Shah has been on mad runs across the country, particularly the invincible regions among which Odisha causes the BJP most hurt. Shah, touted as a superb poll strategist, speaks in a crude manner at public gatherings while slamming opponents. The BJP had made inroads in the wake of an anti-establishment wave against the UPA regime in 2014. Modi was projected as PM only because of skills at making boastful talks as hammered into the head by PR company experts. After Modi became the PM, he forgot all ‘national interests’ -- poverty, unemployment and more. He just flew away to foreign shores nonstop as if with a vengeance for having been denied visas by most Western nations on grounds of his rabid communal stance. He forgot to distribute, within three months, Rs 15 lakh to each Indian, give jobs to twenty million youths per year and make Jammu and Kashmir an absolutely integral part of India by abrogating Article 370. Three years have rolled by, but not one promise has been kept. The much-hyped demonetisation has caused a huge economic setback, growth having dropped from 7.2 to 5.2, which was forecast by Raghuram Rajan then. Theatrical moves and rhetoric have kept him floating. He claims to be weeping for the poor but dons royal suits worth millions. Women empowerment is his dream, but his estranged wife has not even seem his official bungalow once though, of course, he made clear that he chose from day one to remain away from wedded life. But this innocent woman should have been empowered in some way or the other.

Most interestingly, Gujarat under Modi developed less than Odisha under the reticent Naveen Patnaiik in kurta-pyjamas and chappals despite that Naveen has seen the wider world much better and earlier and brushed shoulders with global celebrities when Modi may not even have known the world map well even now. Despite roars and rants, Odisha figures higher in a number of critical development indices including MMR and IMR, rural electrification, increasing forest cover and irrigation. Modi can’t be blamed for the lagging status of Gujarat on some fronts. But that Modi screams that ‘Odisha is the poverty capital of Asia’ is plain madness. He often forgets he is Prime Minister of Odisha too. Odisha gives the BJP strategists goose pimples because Naveen’s magical personality intrigues and frightens them. Shah visited Odisha only recently to provoke the people to vote Naveen out of power by saying they have already reserved 120 MLA berths for the 2019 polls as if they were ordinary passenger train berths. Shah does worry about the shamefully slender ten–member presence in the legislature, but his mentor-tutors have told him to make empty noise to confuse and deceive the masses. So, Shah decided to jump twelve hundred per cent upwards in two years. The BJP spokespersons keep claiming their membership drive has been hugely successful. One wonders how a mere ‘missed call’ on a mobile turns one a BJP member. It’s as weird as surveying around a jewellery shop and becoming owner of the whole enterprise instantly.

Now a bit of comparative talk between the two States: What Shah may not know at all is that the international community hails Odisha as a most disaster-ready State in the world today. Through continuous manpower development, skill training and creating infrastructure, the State now has 20 Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force units to assist the civil administration at the time of deadliest of calamities. Naveen had appeared when all other political outfits had deserted the State in utter chaos just after the Super Cyclone of 1999 slammed the coast. Just two days ago, when storm ‘Irma’ was pounding the Florida coast, experts from Odisha were being consulted on evacuation and relief techniques. The United Nations rates Odisha as the best disaster-prepared State in the world. So when cyclones Phailin and Hudhud blew over the Odisha and Andhra coasts, Odisha experts rescued and relieved all more; so the Andhrites ensured perfect rehabilitation work in the following days.

Naveen obviously provokes immense fear among BJP thinkers and planners as they simply can’t figure out what magic works in ‘Naveen’s land’, which is not even perceived elsewhere let alone be seen or felt. No formula has worked so far in deciphering the Naveen magic by the detractors and witless opponents. The simple truth is Naveen ensures that the State is in safe hands with development planning and implementation done without much loss of time or money. Moreover, he has left strict instructions with his ‘delivery agents’ irrespective of one’s political or bureaucratic status that they have acquired the skills to figure out what people want and in what manner they would receive relief and goods effectively. Schemes are chosen and delivery techniques determined. Care is taken to ensure that not a single deserving beneficiary is deprived. Poverty mapping is done methodically in a failsafe manner though errors and blunders are accepted up to a logical limit.

Whatever popular schemes the Naveen administration launches, BJP loudmouths scream they have the maximum contribution. People are growingly confused how money is generated for their welfare schemes. India is a Federal country where States raise revenues, most of which is deposited with the Centre for equitable distribution as per legitimate needs of individual States. The proceeds of all the taxes levied by a State under the ‘State List’ are fully retained by the State itself while taxes in the ‘Union List’ may be in part allowed to the States, but most goes to the Union coffers.

Union List:

Customs, Corporation tax, taxes on capital value of assets, surcharge on income tax, etc.

State List: Land revenue, stamp duty on items in State List, taxes on passengers and goods carried on inland water ways, mineral rights, road vehicles, advertisements, consumption of electricity, luxuries & amusements, State toll tax, etc.

There are some taxes and duties in the Union List including sale or purchase of goods and services other than newspapers, taxes on consignment of goods to be collected by the Union Government but be assigned to the States as decided by Parliament.

The Finance Commission recommends to the President in regard to the distribution of proceeds between the Union and the State and suggests principles to govern the grants-in-aid. The President acts as per the recommendations.

Grants-in-Aid: Article 273: Grants may be given by the Union to the States of Assam, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal in lieu of export duty of jute and jute products. Article 275: Grants may be given to any State in need as may be deemed essential.

The States’ share in the net tax revenues is assessed as per the vertical gap between the Union and the States, which is the difference between the normatively-assessed expenditure share and revenue capacities of the Union and the States.

Secondly, the horizontal sharing of the vertical gap between the States is determined by using equity and efficiency as the two guiding principles while recommending the State’s shares. Criteria for horizontal sharing include population, area, fiscal capacity, distance and fiscal discipline. Presently, service tax is not levied in Jammu & Kashmir. Fortunately, the 14th Finance Commission has raised the State share to 42% from 32%.

Horizontal tax devolution considers these factors: Population census (2011), area, forest cover, fiscal capacity/income distance is the ability of groups, institutions, etc., to generate revenue.

So, the States do not get alms; they get their lawful entitlements. When the BJP keeps screaming ‘our money, our money’, they are only fooling the gullible masses; and foolish political opponents can’t hit them hard with the truths. After getting the legitimate share, the Government can use it anyway for public benefits as per priorities they determine. If they go wrong, they are liable to be exposed by the audit watchdogs, but if they have done well, no one has a right to raise a finger. For instance, one-rupee-per-kg rice is a necessity at the moment. The Centre can’t say ‘we gave 25 rupees and the State only two”. That’s crap and deceitful claim.

The BJP will do great self-good by copying most of the Naveen model as it is full of sobriety and silence! 120 seats may come true only after Naveen relinquishes office for good. That’s bitter fact for Shah!

(The writer is a core member of Transparency International, Odisha)




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